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70 Years In Pictures History: Scotland’s NHS


From hernias restrained by trusses to the first kidney transplant and MRI scans - the story of Scotland’s NHS on its 70th birthday


BY KEVIN O’SULLIVAN A


group of four nurses stand smiling as they prepare to hoist a standard depicting the sun rising – created as a symbol of optimism for the new National


Health Service. Dated July 5, 1948, the picture, taken at


Gartnavel Royal Hospital in Glasgow, is one of many thousands held by the Mitchell Library as part of the city’s NHS archives, which records for posterity: “During the first few weeks patients flooded into doctors’ sur- geries – men with huge hernias restrained by trusses, women with prolapsed uteruses, thousands of near-deaf people without hearing aids, tens of thousands wearing second-hand spectacles. Anuerin Bevan had said that the NHS would ‘lift the shadow from millions of homes’. Now it was clear he had been right.” Edinburgh and Aberdeen hold similar


archival collections, but this remarkable image may be the only surviving visual testimony bearing witness to the very day the new service came into being. Tis might seem astonishing 70 years on when barely a single event escapes capture by a smartphone for instant sharing to millions. Tere are plenty of written records held in


14 | NHS70 | SUMMER 2018


the national collections, however, which chronicle the advent of a new service whose foundations were laid by Sir William Bev- eridge’s seminal ‘Social Insurance and Allied Services’ report in 1942. Beveridge, a Liberal, had called for the


creation of an NHS, and the sense of solidar- ity invoked by the Second World War created the necessary social conditions for the Wel- fare State which flourished under Clement Attlee’s post-1945 Labour Government and finally the NHS, which was turned into a political reality by steely Minister for Health, Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan.


By 1948, half of Scotland’s landmass was already covered by a state-funded health system serving the whole community and directly-run from Edinburgh. Te Highlands and Islands Medical Service had been set up 35 years earlier with other state-run experi- ments in public healthcare including the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Association, set up in 1940, and Glasgow City Council’s own district medical service. In addition, the war years had seen a state- funded hospital building programme in Scotland on a scale unknown in Europe and this was incorporated into the new NHS. Scotland also had its own distinctive medical tradition – centred on its medical schools


rather than private practice. Te 1936 Cath- cart report in Scotland had also been influ- ential in the way the NHS was formulated in the wider UK context. Te Glasgow Herald, under the headline


‘New Health Service begins today’, explained some of the reasoning for nationalisation in an article ‘From Our Special Correspondent’, which said: ‘Te arguments for State medi- cine as the Government rehearsed them, and the Department of Health developed them, were plain enough. Hospital organisation had grown up without plan or system. Tere was no co-ordination. Tere was unneces- sary overlapping and competition on the one hand, and on the other a desperate lack of special services, as for orthopaedics, cancer, and neurosurgery. Te panel doctor was available free of charge only to insured per- sons. Te person who could not afford a fee could have access to consultant and specialist advice only through the out-patient depart- ments of the voluntary hospitals.’


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